Plan Your Life: Meet the facilitators of Freed's two upcoming life-planning workshops
We at Freed want to make sure you’re living your best life. On June 18th and 19th respectively, we’ll be hosting two workshops focused on life and career planning. While both promise to be equally fantastic, they also promise to be very different! We asked the facilitators of each workshop to answer the same set of questions about their styles and approaches so that you, our lovely Freed family, can make sure you’re planning your future in the most effective environment for you.
On Saturday, June 18, Strother Gaines will lead “Unicorn Hoofcamp: Drop the s%&t and shed the baggage,” a workshop inspired by Marie Kondo’s, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We’re all carrying around a lot of stuff. In order to take on new adventures and challenges, we need to make room. Come shed the baggage (and learn how to keep it shed) and be that sexy essentialist unicorn you know you are.
The following day, Sunday, June 19, Vega Subramaniam and Mala Nagarajan will lead “Intentional Life Planning: Define your values and let them be your lighthouse.” Designed for people who find themselves overwhelmed, uncertain about the futures, and seeking clarity and rejuvenation, it’s perfect for nonprofit staff who are feeling bored or burnt out, or for people in the corporate or governments sectors who want their values to guide their lives.
You can let the answers to our prescribed questions below guide you to the right workshop, or attend both for a full weekend of life planning and receive a 10% discount when you use the code PLANMYLIFE at checkout.
Describe your personal journey in 5 words or fewer.
Mala & Vega: “Chaos to clarity to intention.”
Strother: "But I'm a Unicorn, Dammit!" (That's probably cheating). How about "adventurous and wonderful cluster f&%k."
In more words now, where did you come from and why are you wherever you have landed?
M & V: Throughout our relationship, Vega and I have created community spaces, and we’ve incorporated that into our own personal mission as a couple: to create and contribute to affirming spaces. Soon after we met in 1996 - in Bellingham, WA, a college town of 55K - we started Trikone Northwest, an organization for queer South Asians. By the early 2000s, our life was full of community, but so full we were burning out fast. This led us to a lot of searching and trying different ways of living more sustainably. We’ve been doing personal strategic planning for 13 years, and it’s one of the highlights of our lives. Over the years, we’ve had a chance to learn a lot and refine our process. Our Intentional Life Planning workshop takes the best of what we’ve learned and guides others to finding their own process and path. It’s been our dream for many years.
S: Geographically, I came from rural Kentucky (Harlan County to be specific) and bounced back and forth between the coasts till settling here in DC (with sporadic stints away in Denver, Baltimore, and India) for the past 9 years or so. Professionally, I've gone through a lot of different types of careers from actor/director, to teacher, to massage therapist, to spa manager, to segway tour guide, to most recently healthcare and now coach/facilitator/speaker. I've heard the term "multi-passionate entrepreneur" coined recently and that seems to fit pretty well...so does cluster cuss.
As to why I've landed here...that's a tougher question. Steve Jobs is often quoted saying (abbreviated) "You can't connect the dots looking forward..." I would never have guessed I'd end up in really any of those careers (except theatre which was a childhood passion). I think I'm hitting a point in my life where I can start to look backwards at all of the dots and see how they line up to form this non-traditional yet really wonderful professional world. In my coaching practice I say that I think my "secret sauce" is in the venn diagram of Authenticity, Storytelling, and Connection. I think those 3 values have really had a chance to develop through all my different paths both professional and personal. Authenticity - growing up gay in the rural south. Storytelling - theatre and education. Connection - professional networking and leadership development. (Ok, Segway tour guiding probably didn't do much for me in the long run...)
When you think about your own life/career, what equals success?
M & V: It’s a little cliched, but success isn’t the destination. Rather it comes from the presence and joy of the journey. It comes from living mindfully, sharing love, and feeling content with the efforts we put forth and at peace with the choices we make each day.
S: When I think of success I really value creativity, adventure, and freedom. If I'm doing work that gives me access to those three things, then I'm doing something right. The path to those values can be lots of different things (freedom through saving money, freedom through flexible work hours, freedom through with whom I work) and can change over time. As I keep raising my floor and ceiling (coach-y idea of where I'm comfortable as my base and my max out point) my paths change but those values seem to stay the same.
When you think about your clients’ (or workshop attendees’) lives/careers, what equals success?
M & V: Success is attendees exploring their core values and life purpose, seeing their lives with a clearer, longer-term perspective, with renewed commitment, and with clarity and inspiration about their mission. Success is also participants having created a clear plan forward and identified the supports and resources they need to achieve it. Ultimate success is people are living their daily lives in alignment with their core values and mission.
S: It's such a personal thing and I think this is the challenge of describing coaching. Success really depends on the client and what they're out to create (and how far they're willing to push to get there). If we can close the gap between where you are now and where you want to be (regardless of where that is) then I'd call that a win. Some projects are easy to track (I'd like to save 6 months salary) and others are more complicated (I feel unfulfilled in my current job). Coaching is all about moving the needle forward, exactly how that happens and at what speed can vary greatly.
Describe your approach to coaching/workshop facilitation—what should one expect? What makes a good session?
M & V: Our approach to workshop facilitation is to lead others through a process of discovery that is both very structured and also offers plenty of time for personal reflection. We bring ideas, personal stories, and tools. We ask that the participants dig deep and work hard. Participants are invited to share their reflections, but only as much as they want to. People tell us they appreciate the interplay of our different energies, the fact that we share our own stories so frankly and authentically, that we are welcoming and inclusive, and that they can see how committed we are to this work and to providing a meaningful experience for participants.
You get what you put in and what you are ready for, and it’s a good session when everyone brings their whole selves and immerses deeply. Please read the testimonials from past participants -- they say much more than we ever could!
S: I curse and flip my imaginary hair a lot when I'm facilitating. I'm working on cutting down the cursing (some) but that hair flip is gonna stay. My workshops are always going to be engaging. I don't want you to come and listen to me rattle on for an hour and then walk out thinking "oh he's a good speaker....that was a good use of an hour". I want you to walk out with actionable ways you're going to improve your life and business. I've been working on professional and personal development for years and want to bring all the good bits to my clients while leaving as much of the fluff behind as I can. I think I do particularly well at blending the fluffier ideas of development work with a nice hearty dose of irreverence and real world.